Looking for a way to get rid of your fridge at the end of the semester? Have a yoga mat that needs a new home? Trying to start a small business? Traid might be the platform for you. Created by Sophie Scobell ’22, Sherry Liang ’20 and Sara Pinsonault ’20, Traid is a start-up that was born out of the idea that buying, selling and trading should be made easy for college students around the country.
As of now, Traid is a media platform through which student entrepreneurs and artists can feature their work. The name is a combination of the words, “trade” and “aid,” which form the basis of the platform’s concept. Although the platform was initially created with Wesleyan University students in mind, now students with small businesses from any school can submit their work to have it displayed on Traid’s monthly newsletter, website, and social media.
“My mom had been cutting my hair throughout high school, and I realized that at [Wesleyan] I would have to pay for a haircut unless I found someone to do it for me,” Scobell said. “I thought that maybe there could be a way to trade some sort of item that I could make for a haircut and realized that [there] was no really good way to do that.”
Scobell, a current member of the track team, makes necklaces with spike pins from old running shoes. She posted about her idea for Traid on WesAdmits and almost instantly connected with Liang, who became the platform’s co-founder.
“Towards the end of March, when we were already off campus, I saw Sophie post in a WesAdmits group with a question [searching for a way] that would make trading easier on campus and I reached out to her via FB to share what I had been working on… and boom, the rest is history,” Liang wrote in a message to The Argus. “After I graduated… that was really when Sophie and I both came together to make decisions about Traid, though we did have conversations prior to that about the potential of this project.”
The project started with two editions of the newsletter in PDF form, but quickly transitioned to Instagram (@traiduniversity) and built a website to reach more viewers.
“We’re kind of trying to grow the name of Traid right now in hopes that it will help us when we actually do develop a platform,” Scobell said.
The goal of the start-up is to eventually become an app on which students can sell their creations, buy from other small businesses and upcycle items they are looking to get rid of or were planning to donate at the end of the year.
“We are highlighting student creators (not just student businesses),” Scobell wrote. “Essentially, any form of student entrepreneurship. And ultimately, we want to create a platform that will facilitate buying, selling, and trading on college campuses.”
Platforms like Traid and other apps that encourage people to buy and trade, such as Depop and Poshmark, have been the subjects of certain conversations that have come out of this summer’s social justice movements. Questions about the ethics of capitalism and consumption, especially in relation to art, have been circulating on social media and beyond. Scobell explained that this is something Traid has kept in mind when designing their platform and method.
“Ultimately when we do make the [app,] we will have some sort of benefit for people who trade versus buy and sell, so as to try to decrease consumption,” Scobell said. “You can also sell or trade items that you would give away at the end of the semester or throw away, so we’re kind of trying to avoid that. Also, [we realize] that most students are in need of money, and I think it’s really hard to sell things over Facebook successfully.”
Pinsonault, the group’s graphic designer, echoed Scobell’s comments, further expressing the importance of supporting small businesses.
“During quarantine, because of store closures and things like that, many people pivoted from buying from larger corporations to buying from small businesses, and I think Traid is doing something different by acting as a place where people can learn about and buy from reliable small businesses,” Pinsonault wrote in an email.
Traid is a passion project for both Scobell and her co-workers, but it can be tricky to balance with the other pressures in their lives.
“I’m not employed in a traditional 9-5 job because employment in my desired field has been stalled due to coronavirus,” Pinsonault wrote. “I do have an internship, a part-time job, and regular freelance clients, so I’m working all the time. Because Traid is so small, we don’t get paid, and sometimes Traid has to take a backseat to my other jobs. I create visual content for Traid whenever I can find free time.”
Free time is scarce for the trio, who are balancing academic work and multiple jobs on the side of the start-up.
“I work throughout the week M-F and early mornings and won’t be free 6-7 p.m. evenings PST, which means super late for EST,” Liang wrote. “If we need to have a meeting during the week, we work around these parameters, but we usually try to keep meetings during the weekends in the morning. I think what we’re doing is very cool, so it feels more like a hobby and a break from my regular work and school routine! It’s also so wonderful to see the passion that Sophie brings to the work and the creativity that Sara adds to the team.”
There’s also the fundraising aspect of this project, which the organizers have had to consider.
“A lot of small businesses have popped up all over the quarantine period, which has been really cool,” Scobell said. “And particularly students who are raising funds for all these different, particularly Black Lives Matter-related causes, that’s been really cool to see.”
Traid expects to face a multitude of challenges as they continue to try and expand their presence and platform. Different time zones, obstacles from the pandemic, and a lack of coding experience are just a few of the hurdles that they’ve met so far. Right now, Traid is developing a pitch for a competition that they hope will bring investors to their project.
“There is little visibility on campuses (particularly Wesleyan’s) for small businesses, and we feel that this platform and our continued student features will recognize those creators and inspire others,” Scobell wrote.
If you or someone you know might want to get involved with Traid or have work highlighted, the best way to contact them is through their Instagram (@traiduniversity) or the contact page of their website.
Talia Zitner can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.